Tabletop Simulator - Steam Review

Tabletop Simulator


Platform: PC

Players: 1 to however many you can fit around a virtual table

Achievements: Yes

Steam Trading Cards: Yes

Controller Support : Yes

Retail Price: $19.99

High Level Premise: The ultimate board gaming sandbox

Graphics/Style: The graphics for the preloaded games are very simple, but they do the job.

Music/Soundtrack: Except for a cheesy song on the main menu screen, the only sounds are those of rolling dice and flipping cards

Story: No story. You get to build your own board game

Replay-ability: Infinite as long as you have friends to play against.

Time Commitment: You can pop in and play a hand of Cards Against Humanity for 5 minutes, or you can run an RPG campaign that takes years.

Value: If you're willing to put in the work, there's nearly infinite value available.

Favorite Element: Flipping the table.

Axis and Allies

There are two major things Tabletop Simulator (TS for brevity's sake) does for the gaming community. The first, obviously, is that it is an online place for people to get together and play board games. TS comes preloaded with over a dozen classic games. I'm talking the true classics here, Reversi, Poker, Chinese Checkers, Chess, and the like. They also have provided a robust (though purposefully generic) RPG Kit so that players can run a role playing session in game.

The "catch" is that none of these games have the typically expected automation of normal video game adaptations. For example, if you want to play Reversi, you have to place the initial pieces on the board. You also have to remember to flip all the proper discs over after making a move. However, the amount of freedom that TS allows means that I have designed my very own disc flicking variant of Reversi that I quite enjoy! It also kind of means you have to trust the person you play against isn't a total cheating jerk face. While it's great in that virtually any game is playable, but everyone kind of has to know the rules beforehand (which is why I gather that whenever I log on, people are only looking to play Cards Against Humanity), or the host really has to keep up with everything..

Key to the Kingdom! I haven't seen this game in decades!

If you want to play something with a bit more depth than the base classic games, you only have to look into the Steam Workshop. There, players have adapted (legally and otherwise) hundreds, if not thousands of other games for play inside TS. There are even a few actual companies that have adapted their games for play inside TS. One of the most notable games right now is the upcoming Stonemeier Games release Scythe. It's playable in TS right now, even though the physical version hasn't hit the market yet.  The best part of these add-ons is that only the host of the game actually has to have the add-on. There are many free games / add-ons, though ones like Scythe do cost extra (Scythe is $7.99...which isn't bad considering the physical game will cost $80).

 The most intriguing part of TS is the ability for people to create their own games. At its most basic, all a player has to do is upload images of all the game pieces into the game creation templates, and within a short amount of time, their physical game becomes a bunch of virtual pieces available for use much like the other games we've seen up to this point. If that sounds like a daunting task, it can be.  Berserk Games (the developer) has taken many steps to try and make the process as painless as possible. There are several very good video tutorials that teach the basics. If you've ever written up a few cards in order to make your own game, it's worth the time to upload the images so you can at least experience the sensation of seeing your scribbles in a virtual environment.

Blackjack with Scripting Window open

If you want to go even deeper, the developers fairly recently added LUA scripting into TS. Now, I'm going to admit right now that I know less than nothing about scripting. The last programming language I could grok was Commodore 64 BASIC, and I wasn't great with that. So, I'm probably not the best person to review this aspect of the program. From what I can tell though, this scripting ability really helps more user-friendliness to many games by allowing the game engine to do things like put pieces in their proper starting locations and the like. I downloaded a simple Blackjack script, and the game properly deals the cards automatically. I'm sure those smarter than I are going to make great use of this function.

So, is Tabletop Simulator for you? If you love tabletop gaming, but can't get your game group together for various reasons, or you want to try out games before you spend a lot of money on the real version, then yes. Absolutely yes. If you design games already, and want to give people the chance to discover and play test your game without the expense of printing up demo copies, then yes, Tabletop Simulator is for you as well. If you're looking for more automated, computer driven play, then I don't think this is quite the package you are looking for. I kind of fall into this last category personally, but I do see tremendous value in this product as long as it continues to have an engaged user base.

I busted? FLIP THE TABLE!!

Plus you can virtually flip the table, and send all the pieces flying...and then reset the board exactly how it was to continue the game. How awesome is that?

Tabletop Simulator now supports VR with the HTC Vive! VR is currently in beta.

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